Current/Recent Reading List

30 April 2008

This is Why I'm Not in Management

Far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth, but here goes anyway. At my first school, the problem with recruiting a staff for the yearbook class was that there weren't enough talented, hard-working kids, and that many of those who did fit that bill were in band the same period as my class. So, I would usually get my top two or three for editor positions, and the rest was a combination of kids who liked me but weren't too interested in the book, or people the guidance counselors stuck in.

Now I have much different problems. I have a pretty good group to start with, and only four positions available for next year. There are 10 applicants for those positions, and they are all great candidates. Plus, instead of the advisor making the call by fiat, the tradition has been to let him/her hold the right of veto but let the staff interview the candidates and vote on them themselves.

Well, two of the four slots were slam-dunks to fill, and one of the other two was also decided fairly easily, if not unanimously. That last spot, however, was the source of an hour-long bare-knuckle brawl today. Cheerleader politics, comments about what someone's mom is going to be like to deal with, and every shade of what's-fair and what's-not-fair argument ensued. Nothing has yet been resolved, and I may be called on to make the final call, in which case I become even more of a contributor to someone's heartache.

Why should this bother me? Because I hate, hate, hate to be the one to give bad news, that's why. What if someone cries, for God's sake? Should causing people to cry be part of my job description, unless I'm being paid Dr. Phil money? Nay, I say, nay.

I think next year I'll hand the whole business over to one of the coaches; their used to cutting people all the time, and probably don't give a rip when they do.

27 April 2008

Yes, I'm Alive...

...but don't have much in the tank after my second weekend in a row of workshop/think-tank/seminar/reflecting heaven (I guess it's heaven to somebody, anyway). Give me a couple of days to get ball games out of the way, and I promise a full rant about some real live deconstruction cultists I wanted to punch during a keynote address yesterday.

In the meantime for any of you literary nerds, below is a link to a great piece on those pesky (mostly Southern, I must add) New Critics whom the deconstructionists like to think they've killed off. They're very much alive in my classroom, by the way, but then I've always been a sucker for the unfashionably old-fashioned. Enjoy!

Grammars of a Possible World

20 April 2008

Day One of Writer's Project

That was my entire Saturday, save for the little bit of mowing I squeezed in before dark. As you may recall the first two sessions of my summer Writer's Project class take place on back to back Saturdays in the spring, and now one is down. I must say it was fun, and the group of 15, plus three instructors, were fairly irritant-free. We wrote quite a bit, natch. And talked about writing quite a bit, natch. It was enjoyable, but the contrarian in me already points out that in contemporary America people who like to read and write can make books and writing a bit too precious, or a bit too much like religion. I'm well aware of this, because I'm sure I've been guilty of it myself. On the whole, though, I'll say I'm looking forward to spending so much concentrated time writing this summer, even while I try to suppress that "This could lead to big things! Maybe you could be a real writer!" voice I've heard all my life. You know you hear it too (or perhaps you are a real writer!)

Since I'll be spending three weeks of my summer with these people, it's important for me to go ahead and anticipate who will cause me heartburn during that time. The only candidate who sticks out right now is a near-retirement-age teacher from the coast who will be living in Raleigh on campus for all of July. She had a long-winded comment about everything, and while not unpleasant, was the least helpful person in the group writing assignment we did. We'll see if I'm right about my unkind speculation, but I read this as a "divorced and no grandkids" situation.

Wow, that was mean.

The only other person I'll mention at this point was this really sweet granola child in her mid-thirties who teaches in Chapel Hill (heh, heh). Seemed like one of the coolest people there. Among the things she is excited about is the new "Social Justice" academy she helped start at her school, which is run by some English and some history teachers (heh, heh, heh). But you know, she seemed like such a good soul, talking about the organic garden she and her husband have behind their house, and was so nice, that I don't have it in me to completely mock said academy. Yet.

I know that won't stop some of you, though. I hear you, Brad and Phil.

15 April 2008

I'm a Made Man

Not quite in the same way the guys from "Goodfella's" were, mind you. Last Thursday an office assistant brought me the following ominous note:

Please see me during your planning period. This is an important matter regarding your employment for next year.
-The Principal

I suppressed feelings of panic enough to make it through the class period, then went down to check on it. The agony wore on as I had to wait while he dealt with a couple of boys who had been fighting. Then, when I finally got in, he explained it was nothing bad, and in fact was good. Because of the particular license cycle I am on this year, he had to make a decision to deem me a tenured teacher at the school, or to let me go. "You're too good for me to let you go, so I'm signing off on your tenure," he said.

Now, tenure for public school teachers does not offer the all-encompassing protection it offers for a college professor. Essentially it means that I cannot be moved to another school by the county office against my will, and that my position cannot be eliminated unless our student population dwindled tremendously, and even then I believe they would have to find a spot for me. Of course, I could still get fired for not doing my job, and I suppose there are a number of unforeseen disasters, like half the county getting wiped out by an alien flu, that could alter my employment status. But basically, I'm safe.

Still, the "made man" analogy might not be too far off, judging from the mood around the school the last couple of weeks. Let's just say that everywhere I turn teachers are talking junk about other teachers, palpable dislike hovers over most meetings, and malicious subtexts abound. Yikes. Better find Tessio and Clemenza (I know, I'm mixing movies).

09 April 2008

Boobs Again (Sorry!)

Well, both t-ball (for the boy) and softball (for me, in an attempt at a limited comeback) have started, and for my pains on Monday and Tuesday nights I contracted a bad enough cough to warrant a visit to the doc-in-the-box again. Nice, huh? But at least there is no infection this time.

Onto the real item for today, which, unfortunately causes me to revisit the prom once again. On that fateful night, I've mentioned previously, there was much to take notice of. However, one thing I did not observe (because I'm a good boy), but that a colleague mentioned that she and her fiance did, was the volume of cleavage on display - in particular, the volume of inauthentic cleavage on display.

This was a bit shocking to hear, 17-18 year-olds and all, and without knowing who some of these belonged to the whole idea of it seemed a bit unreal (pun intended) to me. But then on Monday I had the following conversation with my yearbook editor over the prom page she was checking. Names are changed here to protect the not-so-innocent:

Editor: Mr. P. you need to look at the this picture we have on the prom page. It's got Holly in it, and we should probably take it out since she's on the staff. But also... well, look at her in that dress. Isn't that inappropriate.

Me (glancing at the cleavagy picture as gingerly as possible): Yeah, probably. You can take it out. You know, my wife and I happened to notice Holly's dress was really short.

Editor: I know. It was scandalous.

Me: Well, I'll tell you this also. I didn't happen to see this, but some other teachers were remarking on the number of... uh... implants they saw on a number of the girls there.

Editor: Oh, definitely.

Me: Unbelievable. What are their parents thinking? [pause] But now my curiosity has the best of me. Any chance Holly is one of those they were talking about?

Editor: Well, you know the rumor from last year, don't you?

Me: No.

Editor: She missed a lot of school spring semester last year, and she said it was because she had mono. But the rumor was she really had implant surgery. Everyone thinks it's true because no one can remember her having anything close to those before she was gone for so long.

End of sordid conversation. I will only add that "Holly" at one point drove a pink Barbie Jeep (yes, they make those), that she occasionally participates in pageants, and that she has already done a bit of modeling. I now leave it to you, gentle reader, to draw your own conclusions and do your own railing (and/or snickering).

02 April 2008

Sign of Things to Come, or Just an Accurate Description?

We picked up our uniforms for my son's tee-ball team last night (I get a shirt too, for being asst. coach). We knew we were the Braves, but didn't know our sponsor, until we saw it printed on the back. This season, we will proudly display the following on our jerseys for the world to see:

All Star Waste

I think I'll post a picture of myself in that shirt on my teacher web page.